Natalie & Her Home
Creative, resourceful and tenacious are just a few of the words that come to mind when describing Natalie Chong, the owner and principal of Nest Design Studio. As a teenager, Natalie developed a passion for designing and crafting beautiful spaces and, after earning her chops interning for Toronto's top interior design firms, she eventually set out to start her own firm. Natalie's story is a poignant reminder as we inch our way toward 2017 that our dreams really can become reality. The only caveat, of course? We have to be willing to put in the work like Natalie did!
As a designer, this all-around creative strives to create fresh spaces for her clients that blend color and functionality, but that also incorporate a distinct and personal design style all her clients' own. Natalie's most recent project—her home—is nothing short of stunning. The Toronto apartment she shares with her new hubby is filled with meaningful pieces, modern artwork and metal accents that all combine into a true reflection of her core aesthetic: clean lines, soft colors and a romantic mood.
The best part? She's not shy about revealing her tricks of the trade! Below, Natalie generously offers an inside peek at her dream design process, memorable DIY projects and some clever small space solutions, too.
How would you describe the overall aesthetic of your home?
I would describe the overall aesthetic of my condo as classic, clean, casual, comfortable and elegant. I wanted it to grow with me, but to have a neutral base, allowing me to be able to change things up as I please.
What mood do you hope your home gives off?
I hope that my home evokes a sense of peace and comfort. I want people to feel comfortable sitting and lounging around, but also to have the sense of being in a well-designed space. I want them to really enjoy their surroundings.
How do you think you've managed to establish that feeling?
With the textures and details I have used. Nothing is unapproachable or stuffy. I used lots of linen and cotton, which are both soft and nice to brush against. I incorporated warmer wood tones, and neutral metal accents as well.
Any great online art resources we should know about?
I use Etsy a lot, as well as Minted and Society6. They all have great art resources and feature local artists. I also like to enlist local artists to create smaller pieces that can be easily interchanged.
What is your favorite room in your house, and why?
That is a tough one! I have to probably choose my living room. I believe that is where everyone loves spending their time, where all the interesting conversations happen, where we gather and enjoy. Because we live in a condo, it is tough to really spread out—to be honest, it is realistically the only space we can go to spread out. It functions like a “great room.”
My sofa is really the only “scary” white piece we own, but I fabric-protected that thing the moment it came into the condo. White keeps a small condo feeling spacious, open, airy and light.
Where do you get your fun accent pillows?
I sourced/designed them myself and actually got my seamstress to sew them for me! My pillows on my bed are from a local department store in Toronto called Hudson’s Bay, and they are from an Australian company called Aura Home.
What is your favorite way to unwind after a long day?
I love ordering take out and watching a movie or a favorite TV show! If it’s a weekend, I like going out for a nice dinner or cocktails at a local bar.
What are your favorite home decorating stores to shop at?
West Elm, Crate & Barrel, CB2, HomeSense (like HomeGoods in the U.S.), and then local stores all over Toronto. I love vintage shops and thrift stores, too!
Are you a fan of DIY?
I am, for sure, a fan of DIY because I don’t have the same budget as my clients! I love something that I can personalize in a way that makes it look more expensive than it is! Customizing big-box store furniture is a great way to make something look like your own. I have the knowledge to make everything look better, so why not use it?
What is your favorite DIY project?
My favorite project would be the two IKEA PAX wardrobes in my bedroom. I added a shiplap detail on the front and custom hardware! It looks like a custom wood door, which technically it is.
Do you have some clever organization tips?
I love using pieces that function as a double duty. For example, my media unit is a sideboard. It holds candles, wine, accessories, TV items, etc. Putting things in a condo—which is tight already—is a challenge, so I didn’t want to waste space by using furniture that isn’t functional.
Secondly, I really like using organizational things, like trays, things that can mount inside the door or makeup organizers! They really help you become more efficient daily and are space-saving but also space-maximizing. They seem gimmicky, but they help so much.
Top stressor right this minute?
Going from a huge walk-in closet to two PAX wardrobes and a sliding closet! I can’t fit all my clothes anywhere. I have too many things. Realistically, I have to keep my other seasonal stuff at my mom’s and current seasonal items at the condo.
Finish this sentence: "I would gladly drop a pretty penny on _________!"
A killer pair of heels or a bag!
What is your favorite part about living in Toronto?
I think Toronto is the perfect size for me. It is a major city in North America, but doesn’t feel too big. It has all the amazing varieties of cultures, food, neighborhoods that major cities do, but also the sense of community and warmth that a smaller city would offer.
I want people to feel comfortable sitting and lounging around, but also to have the sense of being in a well-designed space. I want them to really enjoy their surroundings.
You have a lot of white in your home! How do you manage to keep your white items clean despite constant use?
Well, luckily we have a non-shedding small dog! White is actually pretty easy to clean because you can see it immediately. My sofa is really the only “scary” white piece we own, but I fabric-protected that thing the moment it came into the condo. White keeps a small condo feeling spacious, open, airy and light. But other than my sofa, all my other furniture varies in color.
Favorite home scent of all time?
Citrusy, fruity scents, like grapefruit or oranges. I want my home to smell like an Anthropologie store, and it does!
How do you stay on budget with the design of your home?
I don’t! For some things, I did, but to be honest, my home is always a work in progress. I move things around, adjust things, figure out new ideas and new ways to use the items I currently have, etc. But for big pieces, I do really try to be practical because I know in a bit I am not going to love it anymore. So I don’t want to change things that either are insanely heavy to get them into the condo, or aren’t worth spending the money right now. We are newlyweds and my husband is in finance, so he is good at making sure I don’t go nuts.
Pendant light // Mirror // Bedding // Sheepskin // Sconces // Handles // Wardrobes // Cabinet // Cabinet doors // Ottoman fabric // Floor lamp // Wood branch // Beaded garland // Coasters // Parsons side table // "What is done in love is done well" print // Picture ledge // Abstract prints // Diamond jute rug // Shoe cabinet // Marble table lamp // Frames // Baskets // Tissue box // Soap dish // Vase // Minimalist white horse photograph // Pillow fabric // Side stool // Desk // Gold table lamp // Glass knots // Sideboard // Rug // Clock